Origen Transcription and Translation–Part 3

Here, Origen discusses whether rivers, seas, and lands have souls;  he marshals evidence from several places in scripture to suggest that they do, and then wonders if these “powers” taking on various natural forms (rivers, lakes, etc.) are responsible for the pagan practice of making sacrifices to them.  As always, suggestions and corrections are welcome. 


ἡ λέξις ἡ λέγουσα, "εἴδοσάν
σε ὕδατα καὶ έφοβήθησαν; ἐταράχθησαν
ἄβυσσοι πλῆθος ἤχους ὑδάτων
." ἐπέρχεται δή μοι
λέγειν, ὅτι πάντα ἐψύχωται, καὶ
οὐδέν ἐστιν ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ κενὸν ψυχῆς.
πάντα δὲ ἐψύχωται σώμασι διαφόροις,
ἐψύχωται ὁ οὐρανός, διὸ ὡς
πρὸς ζῶον αὐτῷ ἡ γραφὴ λέγει, "πρόσεχε #Dt 32:1
οὐρανὲ καὶ λαλήσω" καὶ ἄβυσσe [1]
οὐρανὲ, ἐψύχωται ἡ γῆ, "ῥήματα ἐκ
στόματός μου." καὶ "ἐνωτίζου γῆ." #Is. 1:2
εἶτα ἐψύχωται μὲν οὐρανός, ἐψύχωται
δὲ καὶ ἡ γῆ,  ἆρα θάλασσαι καὶ ποταμοὶ
οὐκ ἐψύχωται; ἢ καὶ ταῦτα ἐψύχωται.
καὶ ἴδωμέν γε ὅτι "ἡ θάλασσα
εἶδεν καὶ ἔφυγεν; ὁ ἰορδάνης
ἐστράφη εἰς τὰ ὀπίσω
" (Ps. 113:3 LXX) καὶ ὅτι ὡς
πρὸς ἐψυχωμένα ὁ λόγος διαλέγεται,
νῦν τῇ λέξει συναγορεύω. τῷ ῥητῷ μόνῳ
παρίσταμαι, θέλων παραστῆσαι
ὅτι πολλάκις λανθάνει ἡμᾶς καὶ ἡ
λέξις κατὰ τὸ ῥητὸν ἔχουσα μυστήρια
θεῖα, καὶ οὐ τοῖς τυχοῦσι γνωστά,
ζητῶ οὖν εἰ δύναμίς τις ἐνδέδυται
τὸ σῶμα τὸ θαλάσσης, καὶ ἄλλη
δύναμις ἐνδέδυται σῶμα ποταμοῦ
τοῦ ϊορδάνου, καὶ ἄλλου ποταμοῦ

φέρ’εἰπεῖν τῶν γεὼν, ἄλλη δύναμις,
καὶ οὕτως ἐπὶ πάντων.
καὶ τάχα τοιαῦτα φαντασθέντες
καὶ οἱ παρ’ἕλλησι περιεργότεροι,
θύουσι τοῖς ποταμοῖς ὡς θεοῖς.

[1]  I’m not sure what to do with these three words. They don’t look like they belong to me:  either the scribe missed something or added them by mistake (two close instances of οὐρανέ could cause that).  I’ve left them out of the translation, though I’m happy to hear suggestions.   Here’s the snippet in the ms:




“They trembled,” is not all, but, “the abyss, the depth of the sound of the waters.” Do you see here the difference between the water and the Abyss? [1]  For the Spirit of God was on the water, but Darkness was on the Abyss.  Here, the waters see God, and do not tremble.  But the Abyss does not see God, yet trembles.  For the Abyss, over which was Darkness,  is always in a state of flux and clamor.  Because of this, the demons pleaded with the Lord, so that he would not order them to return to the Abyss.  They said to him, “What is there between us and you, Son of God? You have come to oppress us for a time.” But these instructions for the more divine knowledge, concerning the waters of the Abyss, let us not set them aside, nor what was said just now.  But let us see if it is possible for them to make sense. 

The passage that reads, “The waters saw you and were afraid.  The abyss shook, a deep sound of waters,”  starts to say that all things have souls, and that there is nothing in the world without a soul.  All things are “en-souled” in different bodies.  The Heaven was given a soul, and thus the scripture speaks as if to a living being, “Harken O Heaven, and I will speak” (Dt. 32:1).  The Earth was given a soul, “let the earth hear the words from my mouth,” and “give ear, O Earth!”  If then the Heaven was given a soul, and the Earth was too, would not the seas and rivers have them also?  And these too were given souls.  Let us see indeed that “the sea saw and fled.  The Jordan turned its back,” (Ps. 114:3) and that the passage speaks as if to beings having souls. [2] I agree now with this reading. I will stand only by the literal sense, wanting to show that it often escapes us and that even the reading according to the letter has divine mysteries, and not just those that happen to be known.  Thus I seek to know whether some power has put on the body of a lake, and another power the body of the Jordan river, and of other rivers, and even of the different lands, and likewise for all things.  And perhaps, as things like these displayed themselves, the most eager among the Greeks sacrificed to them as gods. 

[1] Since Origen argues that these are beings with souls, or else spiritual powers, I have opted to capitalize them when he’s not quoting scripture directly.

[2] These following two sentences are a little rough, mainly because I don’t quite know what he means by τῷ ῥητῷ μόνῳ παρίσταμαι.  Something about the literal reading, but I’m not quite sure.

3 thoughts on “Origen Transcription and Translation–Part 3

  1. Hi Alex,

    I thought I would bring this to your attention. Epiphanius and Eusebius have vastly different chronologies for Origen’s career. While most historians rely on Eusebius, his account has serious problems. Nevertheless since Epiphanius is completely at odds with what is presented in Church History everyone ignores Epiphanius.

    The reason this is so important for the Homilies on Psalms is that Epiphanius says that after leaving Alexandria c. 215 CE Origen went to Palestine and then later to Tyre for twenty eight years. Since Eusebius draws from somewhere that the Homilies were only written down when Origen turned sixty and the Homilies on Psalms seem to be first and the Homilies on Psalms make reference to what appears to be Septimius Severus reigning thirty years earlier, most people have thought that they were written 135 – 141 CE.

    Yet Epiphanius’s account diverges at this point. Origen’s meeting with Ambrose described as an ‘imperial official’ who happened to have been a heretic (Marcionite or Sabellian vs. Eusebius’s ‘Valentinian’) coincides with his work at Tyre – and moreover Epiphanius cites from what appears to be the Homily on the First Psalm where a reference to Ambrose appears – it would stand to reason that Epiphanius must have thought that the Homilies on Psalms was written at Tyre rather than Caesarea.

    It might be useful to look out for chronological references to where the work might have been composed. I know these are very rare in Origen’s writings. Nevertheless they might be there and help establish who is right about Origen’s place of residence in the period leading up to the reign of Decius.

    1. Thanks for the notes! I have been reading some more. There’s plenty of interesting material, but I haven’t spotted anything that would suggest a setting. I’ll certainly keep my eye out for them though.

  2. This is several months old, but the Tyre comment is quite interesting, as Porphyry was from Tyre and says that he met Origen in his youth. I’ll have to take a closer look at Epiphanius.

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